BEIJING, Mar 15 – China has dispatched its most modern patrol ship to the South China Seas, state press said Sunday, after an incident with a US naval vessel and a fresh claim by the Philippines to disputed territory.
The Beijing News said the vessel would conduct patrols of what it called China’s exclusive maritime zone in the disputed waters surrounding the Paracel and Spratly Islands.
It said the converted naval rescue ship would aid Chinese fishing boats and transport vessels.
The Philippines passed a law last week which lays claim to disputed islands in the Spratlys chain that are also claimed by China. Beijing has called the law "illegal and invalid."
Tensions in the area rose further when the United States sent destroyers to international waters off southern China to protect a naval surveillance patrol that was involved in a stand off with Chinese vessels.
China says the US patrol vessels were within its 200-kilometre (125-mile) economic exclusive zone, but the United States has insisted they were in international waters.
The Spratly and Paracel island chains have been flashpoints for years.
The Spratlys are claimed in full or part by China and Vietnam as well as the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, and the Paracels are claimed by China, which now occupies them, as well as by Vietnam and Taiwan.